The HEROES Act introduced on Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations would allot $1 trillion for states and local governments and would roughly double Congress's pandemic spending so far, explains Pro Farmer analyst Jim Wiesemeyer.
The bill would also send another round of direct checks to Americans, on top of the $1,200 approved in March, and extend the additional $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits that will expire at the end of July, he said.
“The measure includes a shopping list of ag- and energy-related gimmes, including another $16.5 billion in direct farm payments, plus aid for biofuels plants and dairy producers,” Wiesemeyer said. “The HEROES Act also would authorize USDA to compensate livestock and poultry producers euthanizing hogs or destroying chickens that couldn’t be processed.”
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) expressed strong support for the livestock agriculture provisions in the HEROES Act, especially compensation for euthanized livestock that can't be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions.
"U.S. pork producers are facing an unprecedented financial and animal welfare crisis," said Howard "A.V." Roth, NPPC president and a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis., in a NPPC statement. "These provisions represent a critical lifeline for hog farmers struggling to weather this storm. We urge Congress to come together quickly on final legislation that includes these provisions."
The provisions also include expanded direct payments to livestock farmers who have suffered severe losses as COVID-related market disruptions have caused the value of their livestock to plummet. In USDA implementation of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), NPPC said they continue to seek the removal of payment caps to ensure much-needed aid is extended to those farmers who need it most.
The Democrats’ latest relief bill states that payments would be made in 30-day periods and would cover 85% of the value of losses using the average fair market value as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture, Wiesemeyer said. For each subsequent 30-day period after the initial period, the payment rate would be reduced by 10% (first month = 85%, second month = 75%, and so on). Packer-owned livestock are not covered. Funding is an unlimited appropriation that is completely separate from Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funding/borrowing authority.
NPPC also noted the provision for increased funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have been tapped to perform COVID-19 testing during this human health emergency.
Wiesemeyer explained that $300 million in supplemental appropriations (non-CCC) for the 2018 Farm Bill animal health programs includes the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank.
"House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has been a champion for U.S. pork producers and the daunting issues they are facing," Roth said in the NPPC statement. "We thank him for his support of these provisions."
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